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Domestic sacral space in the Florentine Renaissance palace

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Among the many reasons that domestic sacral space in Florence invites scholarly attention is the existence in that city of the chapel in Palazzo Medici, one of the most famous of the Italian Renaissance. The fortuitous survival of this splendid chapel is due, in all likelihood, to its meeting the Council of Trent's requirement of 1562 that laymen's domestic chapels be closeable and in the form of a chapel, in forma oratorii.

The successful enforcement of Tridentine regulations on domestic chapels and the rare survival of the one in Palazzo Medici have fostered misperceptions about the appearance, frequency and use of lay, or private, chapels. Chief among these is that sacral space in the Quattrocento and earlier resembled what later ensued in conformity with Tridentine guidelines, which were aimed at standardizing and controlling the renovation and construction of domestic chapels and the practices therein.

This article employs archival and canon law sources to provide a glimpse of sacral space as it existed in quattrocento Florence. The chapels selected for this article belonged to individuals of different profiles but all were from the governing elite. Together, these chapels illustrate the remarkable flexibility and variety allowed in the creation, furnishing and use of domestic sacral space in the Florentine Renaissance palace prior to the religious upheavals of the sixteenth century.

Keywords: Council of Trent; Medici Palace; altars; canon law; private chapels

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Susquehanna University

Publication date: November 1, 2006

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